Syracuse's 2014 bowl hopes - already diminished by back-to-back losses to Clemson and NC State - took one final blow on Saturday.
The Syracuse Orange lost to the No. 21 Duke Blue Devils, 27-10, in the Carrier Dome for its seventh loss of the season. That means Syracuse (3-7, 1-5 ACC) no longer has a chance for bowl eligibility, after reaching the postseason in three of the past four seasons.
"It hurts," Scott Shafer said. "It's a difficult situation because that's one of those goals that we wanted to come back and reach. But we didn't. So what are you going to do?"
Before the year, Shafer said his other goal was an eight win season. But now with this loss - the third consecutive one - the best Syracuse can do is reach five.
"We wanted to win eight and we didn't win eight," said Shafer, as he slammed the podium. "So you're disappointed."
Fourth string quarterback Mitch Kimble filled in for the injured Terrel Hunt and AJ Long and for Austin Wilson, who was banged up for part of the game. Kimble used his legs and his 6-foot-4 size to run the ball. He ran for 42 yards, including a rushing touchdown that tied the game at ten in the third quarter.
"I knew we were going to have some difficulties at times," Shafer said. "But I was also proud of some of the performances at times on offense. It was nice to see Mitch come in and do some things. I always felt like he had some ability."
But Kimble struggled to pass the ball and couldn't spark the Syracuse offense, which dropped to 118th in scoring with the loss.
The Orange dodged an early bullet when DeVon Edward's 98-yard kickoff return was called back for a holding penalty. But Syracuse wouldn't be as lucky again in the fourth quarter. Duke's Jamison Crowder was back to receive a Riley Dixon punt with the score tied at ten. Crowder zipped 52 yards for a touchdown.
Dixon was punting from his own end zone for the second time in two minutes.
"It's definitely a little bit more pressure every time we are backed up," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "When you're on the one-yard line, you're really more worried about not getting blocked. So you hold for that extra half a second to block and you don't get to clog up the running lanes."
After the return touchdown, the wheels for Syracuse started to fall off. The next new few moments were, perhaps, the most dreadful few minutes in an already frustrating season.
Kimble tried another QB draw on 3rd and 2. But this time, the Blue Devils wouldn't be fooled. The Orange turned the ball over on downs the next play on a failed fake punt attempt. Wilson came back into the game soon after and threw a long interception.
Duke pounced on the opportunities and scored a field goal and then a touchdown off the miscues. Duke started five possessions in Syracuse territory and, finally, Chuck Bullough's damage control defense couldn't handle it.
In total, the Blue Devils scored 17 points in a 5:32 span. It was 5:32 that ended any chance for Syracuse in the game. And, of course, the season.
"It hurts because you prepared so well from training camp," corner Brandon Reddish said. "And for us to fall short hurts bad."